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Chunky Pets! How to Help Them Lose

Posted on: September 12th, 2011 by

Hi. I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’m at home today answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question comes from Brenda, who says, “My three-year-old feline is a chunky monkey. She has her dry food monitored but she’s only lost three pounds and needs to lose three more. She’s on Royal Canin Weight Management. It’s the lowest-fat dry food I’ve found. She gets less than a cup a day. What else can I do?”

Cats and dogs are the same as people in that weight loss has to be by burning more calories than they’re taking in. If she has additional weight to lose, she really needs less calories still. Something that you can do would be to cut back that food even just a little bit more. Try to be patient. When you’re a cat and you only weigh 10 or 13 pounds, or whatever your cat weighs right now, that weight loss is going to be really slow. You should aim for probably no more than a pound a month or so. There’s a possibility that if she’s already lost the three, you just need to be a little bit more patient.

You could try switching to a weight management canned food. Canned food tends to have more water content in it, and it’s kind of a bigger amount of food but it’s less dense in terms of its calories. That would be another way you could make her feel like she’s eating more food but actually is taking in less calories. Keep up the good work. A healthy pet is usually a thin pet, so I applaud your efforts there.

The next question also has to do with weight and it comes from Sue. She has a Bichon mix who is very overweight. He’s on weight manage food but it doesn’t seem to be helping. He’s a rescue and has doubled in weight.

We see this sometimes in pets that have been rescued that had poor nutrition before. They never knew when their next meal was going to come so they tried to really eat all the time. What he needs to learn is that his next meal is coming. Great job on getting him on a weight management food, but what you probably need to do now is portion control.

Rather than letting him graze all day with a bowl of weight management food, you’re going to need to actually measure his food. Get an actual measuring cup from the grocery store and follow the back of the bag. Aim for the weight he should be, and aim for the low end of the range that’s on the back of the bag. It’s usually a good place to start.

I recommend feeding dogs twice a day. If he’s the kind of dog that likes to graze all the time and you put the food down and he doesn’t particularly eat it all in one sitting, put his measured amount in. If he doesn’t eat it in 10 minutes or so, then the food goes away and he gets it for dinner. Then the same thing; set it down for dinner, and if he doesn’t eat it that time, take it away and he gets it for breakfast. He’ll figure out eventually that you’re going to take his food away so he’ll learn to eat a whole meal at one time and you’ll have a much easier time with portion control.
www.petsbest.com

Loving Animals: The best gift you can give

Posted on: September 12th, 2011 by

Three cats, with cat insurance, post for photos.

By: Pam Lind
For Pets Best Insurance

As a volunteer at the local animal shelter, I see lots of dog and cat adoptions. Some are successful and result in the “forever family” that we so desperately want for our four-legged residents; however, some are not successful and result in the animal being returned to the shelter.

Typically, returns are due to poor choices on the adopter’s part and are not the animal’s fault. When you adopt a pet, you take responsibility for that animal for its lifetime; therefore, it’s hard to understand why some people don’t put a little more thought into choosing a pet.

Most of my pets have been rescues one way or another and each has added such joy to my life. Over time, I’ve picked up some helpful tips from my volunteer work and from my own animals which can help ensure successful adoption of a rescued pet.

Do your Homework
Homework includes, but is not limited to, determining if you can afford the cost of caring for the animal over its lifetime, deciding what type of animal interests you and is best suited for your lifestyle, getting your home ready for the new addition, and given the cost of veterinary care, you may also wish to research pet insurance policies. If you can’t afford the cost of caring for a pet, don’t get one. You will not be doing you or the animal any favors.

Be Realistic
Although shelters may occasionally receive purebred animals, most of the animals are a mix of other breeds. Shelters do their best to determine the breed mix of an animal; however, it’s not an exact science. Don’t adopt a dog identified as a Labrador mix and then get upset later because you find the dog is exhibiting characteristics associated with another breed. That’s exactly why the animals are identified as MIXES.

Keep an Open Mind
You may have a certain type of dog (or cat) in mind, but once you get to the shelter, you may find another animal which will fit with your family much better than your dream pet. Keep in mind some shelter animals bear physical or emotional issues which will need to be addressed. This “baggage” doesn’t necessarily render an animal unadoptable, it just means he requires extra love and care. Don’t let an animal’s special needs stop you from considering this animal for adoption. As long as you are willing to commit to the extra love, time, effort & expenses that a special needs animal requires, then go for it!

I adopted a paraplegic kitten, Smooches, who is paralyzed in his back legs. I did not know exactly what was wrong with him at the time, but I’ve never regretted bringing him home despite the extra care he requires. Smooches is 10-years-old now and so full of life. He still manages to climb and get around the house thanks to his tremendous upper body strength and a ramp that I built for him. I love that cat like no other because he is SO special. And it is because I love him so much and want him to stay healthy, that I recently obtained cat insurance for him, even though his preexisting conditions will not be covered under the policy.

Be Patient and Expect the Unexpected
Animals, like people, take time to get used to their new surroundings. Each animal will adjust to his new home at a different rate. Their personalities will also have a chance to fully develop so you may see new behaviors that weren’t observed at the shelter. My cat, Megan, who I adopted two months ago, adjusted to her new home almost immediately; however, after a few weeks, we noticed she was getting a bit rough with Smooches. We knew she just wanted to play with him, but his disability makes it difficult for him to play normally. We solved the problem by adopting Ruthie a few weeks ago. Ruthie didn’t adjust to her new home so quickly, hiding under my bed for the first few days and coming out only occasionally. By day 3, she started socializing a bit more and now at the end of week 3 she is practically best friends with Megan, engaging in playful wrestling and mutual bathing.

Love Them
I can’t stress this enough. Love them. You made the effort to bring this precious dog or cat into your family — so love them. It’s a fact that caring for a pet helps us live longer by reducing our stress levels — so love them. It’s not enough to just provide food, shelter and pet health insurance — you have to love them. It’s not enough to just keep them healthy, with or without pet insurance — you have to love them. They give us unconditional love. Don’t they deserve the same?

A treat is just a treat, or is it?

Posted on: September 6th, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance eats a healthy treat.

By: Judy Luther
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
For Pets Best Insurance

I was recently approached by a veterinarian who expressed concern with a mutual client. The vet saw the client’s dog a few days prior and was astounded by the pet’s recent weight gain. The dog, which should have weighed around 35 pounds, had exploded to a whopping 45 pounds and had elevated kidney values. Considering how unusual the rapid weight gain was, I determined this would be a great post for the pet health insurance enthusiasts and animal lovers out there.

The veterinarian discovered that the client had recently been using chicken breast and roast beef as training treats.

The vet expressed concern about the weight gain and suggested the client use Cheerios instead—to which the client responded, “My trainer said Cheerios were not a high enough reinforcer to reward the dog for learning.”

I often recommend a “high value” reinforcer when training difficult behaviors—which simply means using a treat that a dog goes nuts for! But once the dog knows the behavior, a “lower value” treat can be used. Eventually the dog can be weaned off treats altogether.

While Cheerios may not be as enticing as say, a piece of prime rib, Cheerios are still a valuable treat option. I often tell my clients to fill a jar with the cereal and add a piece of dried salmon. After awhile, the Cheerios will take on the scent and flavor of the salmon, making them even more appealing to the dog.

The above situation caused me think more about proper treats and the many options available. When selecting a good treat, I always focus on finding treats that are healthy, yet reinforcing to the dog. I try to avoid treats that are loaded with unhealthy ingredients and chemicals. One popular treat on the market contains BHA and BHT which are preservatives that can accumulate in the body. Not a choice I want for my dogs, especially when there are many safer options for treats.

Many of my clients are surprised when they see the types of treats I carry in my training bag. My new favorites are dried fruits and vegetables. Most dogs I encounter love bananas, dried pineapple, apples, dried cranberries, sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans and blueberries. When selecting dried fruits, you want to make sure there are no preservatives or added sugar. Also stay away from raisins/grapes—as they can be fatal to dogs if ingested.

There are several companies making wonderful, all natural dog treats from fruits and vegetables. A couple of my favorites are Bite O’ Blue, a combination of blueberries and applesauce made into chewy bite size treats, and Vegatopia, which is a company that makes dog treats from sweet potatoes, bananas, apples and carrots.

In addition to the above treats, I also recommend several other commercial dog treats; Wellness Pure Rewards, Charlee Bear Treats, Itty Bitty Buddy Biscuits and Cloud Star, just to name a few. These are all healthy treats that are just the right size for training. Remember that your dog just needs a taste, so keep the treats small.

Certain foods can be dangerous to your dogs. As mentioned above, never give your dog grapes or raisins. Other foods that can harm your dog include: onions, chocolate, artificial sweeteners and macadamia nuts. Before going through your fridge to find new treat ideas, you should consult with your vet to make sure your treat choices are safe for dogs. Because accidental ingestion can occur even under the watch of the most wary pet owners, pet health insurance is something that should be considered.

Cats Chewing Corners and Hot Flashes in Felines

Posted on: September 2nd, 2011 by

Hello. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’m going to be answering a few questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

Our first question is from Molly. She asks, “My [inaudible 0:17] Mason has gotten in the habit of biting things; the corner of my wooden cabinet, knobs on my drawers, sponges, and my sink faucets in the bathrooms, which is the strangest thing. Could it be a dental issue or just a weird habit he’s picked up along the way?”

I don’t often see kitties with dental disease chewing on things but I would definitely recommend that you have your veterinarian take a look at the teeth and give your kitty a physical just to make sure there are not any medical problems going on. Quite often it’s just a habit that they pick up for who knows what reason.

A lot of times kitties can be destructive if they’re chewing on things so what I recommend is that you try one of the products from the pet stores that is a bitter-tasting spray that you can apply to those objects. That will teach him not to chew on things like that and hopefully break that habit of his.

The next question is from Mimi, and she says, “Do female cats get hot flashes like us women do?”

Thankfully for the kitties, to our knowledge, no. We don’t really know for sure, though, because first of all, the cats can’t tell us whether they’re going through hot flashes, and secondly, most of our kitties are spayed so they don’t have their reproductive organs and we don’t see any symptoms like that. Thanks for the fun question.
www.petsbest.com

No sushi for Fido

Posted on: September 2nd, 2011 by

A dog with dog insurance turns down a sushi roll on a plate.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
For Pets Best Insurance

Many people enjoy good sushi, which is, of course, prepared safely and is eaten with little risk. But when Fido is scouting the banks of the river on your next camping or fishing trip for raw versions of his or her own ‘sushi,’ you might be wary, even if you have dog insurance. Some raw fish found in the Pacific Northwest can lead to Salmon Poisoning, an acute and often fatal disease if left untreated.

It is a very regional disease for a very interesting reason. The disease can only happen in areas that have a specific type of small snail called Oxytrema plicifer. The Pacific Northwest, including northern California, Oregon, Washington and southern Vancouver Island in Canada have this particular type of snail. So what do snails have to do with Salmon? Here is the tricky-to-follow life-cycle that can culminate with Salmon Poisoning:

The snail has to become infected with a type of parasite called a fluke. The fluke has to be infected with a type of Neorickettsial bacteria. The larval stage of the fluke containing the bacteria can penetrate the skin of the fish, who are not affected by this and don’t become sick. The fish has to be a salmon, steelhead or trout. The dog then has to eat the raw fish, therefore ingesting the parasitic fluke with the harmful bacteria.

Generally about one week after eating the infected fish, the dog will become sick, developing diarrhea in which the parasitic fluke egg is released in the feces, contaminating the ground where snails can pick it up and the cycle repeats itself. Did you follow??

Dogs with this condition generally have a high fever, sometimes over 104 to 105 degrees, and horrible watery, bloody diarrhea. About two thirds of patients will have swollen lymph nodes as well. The bacteria released by the fluke can spread to the liver, lungs, brain, and lymphoid tissues causing damage.

Definitive diagnosis is made by finding the eggs of the fluke parasite in the dog’s feces, even though it is not truly the fluke that is causing the illness. A cytology of the lymph nodes can sometimes provide clues to this diagnosis as well. Of course, a history of access to raw fish in the past week is also helpful. Your veterinarian will likely want to run blood work to determine the extent of damage done to organs and the vast majority of patients will need to be hospitalized in order to prevent dehydration and in order to adequately treat. Pet health insurance will undoubtedly be beneficial in order to ensure the pet has the best care possible and treatment doesn’t become a financial strain for the owner. Unless treated, dogs can succumb to infection within 7-10 days.

This illness can mimic parvoviral enteritis, which is typically vaccinated for, but a test to rule this out might be indicated.

Treatment can be costly, which is why dog insurance can be so beneficial. Depending on the severity of the illness the pet may need hospitalization, fluid support, antibiotics (to kill the Neorickettsial bacteria) and anti-parasiticides (to kill the fluke parasite). Once infected and recovered, dogs generally build a strong immunity to this disease.

In order to prevent this potentially fatal disease, Dogs should not be permitted to ingest raw salmon or similar fish as well as smoked raw salmon.

The Neorickettsial bacteria is not zoonotic, meaning people cannot contract this disease, nor does it cause any illness to other domestic species, including the cat.

So next time you’re chowing down on crunchy salmon sushi rolls, be sure not to share the treat with your pup.